Saying goodbye is an everyday occurrence. We say goodbye to our families as we leave for work, to people we talk to on the phone, and to our co-workers at the end of the day. Goodbye comes in many different phrases, it’s verbal or nonverbal. Most of the time goodbyes are extremely simple. Every now and again when we know that distance and time is going to separate us, goodbyes are difficult. But when we say goodbye there are not really any moments when it hits us that goodbye means forever. As humans we tend to think that there will always be time for another hello, another hug, another kiss, smile, wave, nod, or heart felt chat. We never think, this is going to be the last time I see this person’s face, hold their hand, laugh at a joke, yell at them, kiss them, hug them, or just be in the same room with them. We fully believe that there is always going to be a later or a tomorrow. It isn’t until we are slapped in the face with death that we realize later or tomorrow may never come.
Justin died on the 12th of January. It was a Wednesday. Thursday we planned the service. Friday, his mother, sister, and myself went to verify that they had indeed brought Justin’s body to the right place. The funeral home needed a positive identification before they would cremate him. I understood, but I was completely unprepared. When we walked up to the place. A man that I can only describe as a macabre version of Raggedy Andy greeted us and showed us to the room were Justin was laid out. I had an overwhelming urge to kiss him, to run my hand through his hair and tell him to wake up. I wanted him to look at me one more time with those brown eyes, to smile at me, to touch my face. I wanted him to sit up in that cardboard box and scare the hell out of the three of us. When that didn’t happen I wanted to crawl into the box with him, to snuggle up beside him and go to sleep. When I touched his cheek he was cold and his hair smelled funny. This wasn’t my Justin! Anguish and pain and panic shot through me. I wanted my Justin, I wanted to be held and told that it was some big misunderstanding, that Justin was at the hospital waiting for me to pick him up and bring him home. I wanted the world to spin backwards so that this never happened, I wanted to feel good again.
The world did not spin backwards, it simply kept moving and it wasn’t long before the horror film version of Raggedy Andy escorted to a desk where I signed some papers and then to the door and out to the car. The next thing I knew it was Saturday and the goodbyes would begin. I hauled myself out of bed and dressed in jeans and one of Justin’s t-shirts. Justin liked shirts with sayings on them (usually inappropriate) so to truly say goodbye to him we asked as many people as possible to wear t-shirts with these sayings on them. For my closest friends and family i let them wear one of Justin’s shirts. I wanted everyone to know what kind of sense of humor he had, I wanted them to know what a great person he was behind the wall he built to keep people at a distance. But more then anything I wanted my Justin to be standing next to me. At the service there were so many more people then I had thought would be there. Justin always said he didn’t have many friends, and there weren’t many people that came to our house. I wonder if he was watching that day and if he was surprised that there were so many people wanting to say goodbye to him? I don’t remember a lot about that day. I remember a lot of people, I remember family and friends, I remember tears and anger, I remember trying to hold myself together so that I didn’t fall apart in front of everyone (especially my daughter). I remember it like it was a dream, everything seemed unreal. I remember some of the words that were spoken about Justin, I remember speaking and listening to Tara speaking. I don’t know if anything made sense. I remember people hugging me, telling me how much they would miss Justin and if Anastasia or I needed anything to ask. I remember food and then the comfort of my home. I remember so many people in my house. Then the world spun again and the goodbyes were over for a lot of people.
As the world kept spinning and new things popped up I realized that the goodbyes would never end for me. Everyday I had to wake up and face the fact that my life had irrevocably changed. Everyday I had to remember that Justin wasn’t still at the hospital, that he was never going to walk through the front door again, now matter how long I stared at it and wished that he would. A week went by and I got the call to come and pick up Justin’s ashes. I took Tara while Anastasia was in school. We walked into the funeral home for the last time and picked up a wood box with a dark stain. This box contained what was left of Justin. Tara and I walked back out to the car, i sat Justin’s ashes on the seat in the back and Tara drove me home. We hesitated a moment wondering if we should buckle the box in, then we just moved it to the floor and laughed a little at the absurdness of it all. Everything I had built my life on for the last 10 years was reduced to ash. What was I supposed to do now? I wasn’t the only one hurting and I couldn’t just give up, I had to be there for Anastasia, I had to be there for others, I had to try to figure out how to be there for myself.I had list of practical stuff that needed taken care of but that was just the merest hint of the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t know where to go with everything that lay below the surface. What was going to happen now? All of these questions…nothing and no one stopped to answer these question swirling in my head…the world just kept spinning like nothing had happened.